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Pittsburgh Railways

Welcome Aboard!

Fabulous Fineview: Air PCC 1502 pauses along the 21 Fineview line during a 1960s fan trip --R.H. photo, Ken Josephson Collection.

Pittsburgh Railways OnLine: The name may be misleading for those unfamiliar with the world of trolley cars.

You won't find trains here -- Pittsburgh Railways Company (abbreviated PRC or PRCo.) was formed in 1902, and operated the Steel City's vast electric trolley network until 1964, when the system was turned over to the Port Authority of Allegheny County and operated as Port Authority Transit, or PAT.

We pick up the story in 1936, when PRCo. acquired its first PCC cars. Pittsburgh built the third largest PCC fleet in North America, at 666 cars. More than 600 were still running in 1960, but 'progress' soon caught up with what critics called 'America's Largest Trolley Museum." Barely 100 cars were in operation a decade later, and the system had shrunk considerably. The last of the breed were retired in 1999.

In the 1980s, the backbone of of the remaining system was upgraded to LRT standards with renovated infrastructure, LRVs, and a subway under The Golden Triangle (Downtown Pittsburgh).

Those lines which weren't upgraded at that time languished--with the partial exception of the long Library line--and Port Authority has initiated plans for their renewal.

The PCCs may be gone, but with new cars, routes and renovations in the offing, the 21st Century looks promising for their descendants.

Pittsburgh Railways OnLine is only one trolley fan's tribute to this amazing system, from the PCC era to the present, and hardcore Pittsburgh trolley fans may not find much new material here.

There is as yet no definitive, single-volume history of street railways in the Pittsburgh area. There are, however, many well-illustrated small books, articles and pamphlets which treat various aspects of the system in varying levels of detail. My purpose here is to present the basic elements of the PRCo/PAT story for traction enthusiasts who aren't yet familiar with it, especially the many tram buffs worldwide who surf the World Wide Web. For the most part, we will focus on the years after 1936, when PRCo. acquired its first PCCs.

I have provided a link to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. That magnificent facility is located south of Pittsburgh, on the right-of-way of the former PRCo. interurban line to Washington, Pa. PTM is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of Pittsburgh traction, but its collection of cars and artifacts extends to other systems in Pennsylvania and beyond.

I hope you will enjoy visiting this page. If the experience leads some people to delve deeper into the history of Pittsburgh's transit system, so much the better.

Roger T. DuPuis II,
Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A.

UPDATED FEB 18, 2002

Thanks to Alan Gryfe for the PCC computer graphics.